Welcome back to day 3 of our 31 Days of Tales From the Crypt here at Channel Superhero, I am your cryptkeeper host Bubbawheat guiding you through the various bloggers and episodes that we are taking a look at this October. Today’s review comes from David Brook who generally writes various editorial articles as well as older cult-ish films over at Blueprint: Review alongside their coverage of new release films, I obviously approve of the use of a colon in their site’s title. Being from across the pond in the UK, he chose one of my recommended episodes which was an episode I rather enjoyed, but also knew that it was a very odd one in terms of tone and subject matter. I will also note one thing that he didn’t mention, that this was a nice touch to give a little origin story to the Cryptkeeper which made me enjoy it all the more. But enough about me, let’s hear what David thought of Lower Berth.
Director: Kevin Yagher
Screenplay: Fred Dekker
Starring: Lewis Arquette, Stefan Gierasch, Mark Rolston, Jeff Yagher, John Kassir
Before I begin my review, it must be noted that this is my very first experience with the Tales From the Crypt series. I was aware of it, having spotted episodes and the film hiding amongst late night TV listings now and again. I’m not sure it really got off the ground in the UK or maybe I was just a little too young when it first came out, but I never watched an episode.
I decided to help a fellow film blogger out though when I heard the call out for writers for this October marathon. I’ve been watching through the first series of The Twilight Zone recently too, so that gave me a taste for the short original genre series format, putting me in the mood.
I’d heard Lower Berth was one of the more unusual episodes of Tales From the Crypt, so perhaps it was an odd choice to go for, but I took the plunge regardless. It’s a period piece set in a travelling freak show during the early 20th Century (I guess). Tyrannical boss Ernest Feeley (Lewis Arquette) warns the owner of the freaks, Mr. Sickles (Stefan Gierasch), that his services soon won’t be required as his chief attraction, Enoch the two-faced man (Jeff Yagher), is dying. Enoch keeps getting out of his cage before showtime too, which angers both of them.
Soon after, Mr. Sickles is approached by the mysterious Dr. Zachary Cling (Mark Rolston) who offers him a new attraction for a cut of the profits. This new attraction proves popular, coming in the form of a beautifully preserved 2,000 year old mummy, who Enoch falls madly in love with. When some revelations are made about how the doctor came about acquiring the mummy, things take a turn for the worst though and Enoch takes this chance to break free with his new love. This union eventually brings forth a bizarre final twist.
I was quite quickly sold on the episode after the enjoyable intro from the Crypt Keeper (John Kassir). Blackly humorous, with faux-lit dialogue nestling with puns and goofy sight gags, it’s a nice way to set the tone. The style and production values of the episode got my attention too. Using high contrast, minimal lighting it looks good for a TV series of its age and although the sets are clearly quite small and not all that lavishly adorned, they look convincing enough, flaws hidden by the shadows. The makeup effects are very good too, particularly on Enoch.
However, as a piece of narrative the episode falls a little flat. It has some nice ideas which are often well executed. Wringing sympathy for Enoch for instance is effectively done – with a definite Elephant Man vibe, Yagher’s performance certainly does the job. However, the great Fred Dekker (Monster Squad, Night of the Creeps), who wrote the episode, tries to do too much in too little time. This means the various plot strands and tones all feel rushed and disjointed. So overall, it becomes a bit of a mess.
I still quite enjoyed the episode though and it has got me interested in checking out more of the series. I’m looking forward to reading all of the reviews this month to see where best to start.